Listen to this article

PAXTON — Though it is not legally binding and could be viewed merely as symbolic, the Ford County Board voted Monday night to not recommend to the Illinois Department of Agriculture that a proposed hog-finishing facility be built about a half-mile west of Sibley

Several trustees of the town of 272 in western Ford County addressed the county board, asking for the action.

A letter addressed to the county board from the village trustees said the facility does not meet the last of eight siting criteria set forth by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and questioned whether the new construction is "consistent with specific projects involving community growth, tourism, recreation or economic development," mainly due to the potential odor of manure and the facility’s potential impact on local recreation at the Sibley Lake and village parks, community tourism such as the Sibley Fourth of July celebration, downtown renewal and potential new business, and attracting or retaining village residents.

Nic Anderson, a livestock business developer for the Illinois Livestock Development Group, was present Monday on behalf of the Hartman family, who would own and operate the facility. Anderson reminded the board that, according to the department of agriculture, the proposed facility has met all eight siting criteria set out by the state and that no opponents have contacted the Hartmans personally.

The county board first voted 4-8 to support the proposed facility and then 8-4 to not support it. Board Chairman Bob Lindgren of rural Loda and board members Jason Johnson of rural Paxton, Chase McCall of Gibson City and Dr. Bernadette Ray of Gibson City supported the facility through the two votes.

Board members against the facility cited odor concerns and asked if the Hartmans could re-site the facility on their own property to mitigate those odor concerns.

Anderson told the board it would be valuable if the board would forward comments against the facility to the state so there will be a record.

Other business

Also at Monday’s meeting:

➜ The board took no action on authorizing the hiring of an additional employee in the circuit clerk’s office. Instead, the matter will be discussed at a personnel committee meeting set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the small courtroom at the courthouse. Board member Randy Ferguson of Gibson City said he had met with Circuit Clerk Kim Evans and her employees to see if they could "pick up the slack" in the office when one of the employees moves to the judge’s office as the judge’s administrative assistant. Ferguson suggested there could be a salary boost for the extra work. Committee Chairman Tom McQuinn of rural Paxton said he was interested in discussing the matter further, especially since other offices in the courthouse get by with fewer employees. McQuinn said in the past the board has discussed having an employee designated as a "floater" who would work between several offices.

➜ The board voted to hire an administrative assistant in the judge’s office to fill a vacancy that will be created by a March 22 retirement. The new assistant will begin training March 11.

➜ The board voted to hire a part-time employee for the Ford County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

➜ Sheriff Mark Doran said the Justice, Equity and Opportunity Initiative (JEO), which was created through an executive order signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, will centralize and coordinate criminal justice reforms across a number of state agencies, with particular emphasis on the state’s prison system and sentencing guidelines. Doran said board members need to educate themselves about implications of the initiative. Doran said the Chicago area will receive renewed emphasis, and "downstate is about ready to go for a ride." Doran also said that most fines and fees will not go to local sheriff’s offices but instead will go to the Illinois State Police. Doran also said there is a bill nearing a vote in the state Legislature that would designate various gun crimes "as a public health issue."

➜ The board authorized the spending of $850,000 in motor-fuel tax money. County Highway Engineer Greg Perkinson said the money will go in large part to the resurfacing of "both" Pit roads — the one that runs east and west just south of Paxton and the one that lies in the far-southeastern part of the county.

➜ Public Health Department Administrator Lana Sample reported on the recent server failure in her office. Sample said the hard drives have been returned from a California company  that specializes in such data retrieval. Sample said the data is "raw" and she will not know what has been restored until she begins opening individual files.

➜ Ferguson set two zoning committee meetings to further discuss proposed revisions to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms. The first was set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the small courtroom. The second was set for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at the same location.

➜ EMA Director Terry Whitebird said he would like to see more warming shelters set up throughout the county during winter weather advisories and warnings. A shelter in Paxton was used by several during recent brutally cold weather. Whitebird said a site would need to be handicapped accessible and be equipped with a generator, among several other requirements. Whitebird said he will send board members a list of the requirements.

➜ Wind-farm critic Joanne  Fetzner excoriated the board for allowing a three-year extension of a special-permit for Apex Clean Energy’s proposed Ford Ridge Wind Farm while wind-farm construction remains under a moratorium.

➜ Ange’le Burns of the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency appeared before the board to spread the word that volunteers through the agency are available to help residents file their income tax forms. Residents can arrange for appointments by calling 217-443-8559.